The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on Chicago forward Michael Hage. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

Michael Hage has dealt with more pain than most 18-year-olds.

First it was the shoulder injury that cost him almost his entire first season with Chicago of the United States Hockey League in 2022-23.

Then came something infinitely worse.

Alain Hage, Michael's father, died in a swimming pool accident during a backyard barbecue in July 2023.

"Obviously he meant everything to me as a role model, someone I looked up to my whole life," Michael said. "Starting from his hard work, I think he was someone who I could look up to every day. Just an extremely hard-working person. The biggest thing with him was it's always your effort in everything you do."

Hage (6-foot-1, 188 pounds) certainly put in the kind of effort any parent could be proud of, finishing fourth in the USHL with 75 points (33 goals, 42 assists) in 54 games, and he's committed to play at the University of Michigan starting next season. He's No. 10 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

"It hasn't been easy, obviously, losing him, it's definitely a void in your life," Hage said.

It wasn't long after his father's death that Hage returned to his offseason workout regimen. The gym and the ice proved to be two places he was able to find solace.

"I got back to training fairly quickly in the sense that it was somewhat of a distraction for me," he said. "Being on the ice and getting back in the gym would make it feel normal to me. At times it was really hard when you're just sitting there thinking of nothing, so sometimes it was actually nicer to be in the gym or be on the ice just as a distraction and doing something you enjoy."

When the season began, Hage went to Chicago on his own. His mother, Rania, and his brother, Alexander, 16, remained in Ontario, where Rania works, and Alexander is a top hockey player in his age group.

"It's truly tragic," Chicago coach and general manager Mike Garman said. "I could not imagine what that was like. I got to know Alain, his father, really well. And his mom, Rania, is a terrific person. I know how close Michael was with his father. [He] truly was his hero. I just couldn't even imagine going through that as a young man. I don't know that you can even wholly appreciate the impact it's had and will continue to have on him.


"But what I just witnessed was how strong he, his mother and his younger brother Alexander were through it, how tight knit they were as a family and truly how strong Michael is as a person. He obviously carries it with him, but at the same time, his strength this whole entire year was incredible to me. I don't know very many people that could have handled what he handled to the degree that he did."

While trying to push through emotional trauma, Hage also had to deal with coming back from a serious shoulder injury.

It was during his first on-ice session of his first day of training camp when Hage dislocated his right shoulder. Surgery sidelined him for seven months; he was able to return for the final 13 games of the regular season and got into six playoff games.

And when this season started, despite all the other emotions, Hage felt confident his shoulder was 100 percent.

"Coming into this year I felt like I did a good job rehabbing it and getting it ready over the course of last year and in the summer working on it and strengthening it," he said. "I was 100 percent comfortable with it at the start of the year and it felt good all year honestly, so I had no issues."

Chicago struggled to get the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this season, but Hage was considered a bright spot who got better as the season went on.

"He started the year very good, as a very noticeable prospect, and it just seemed like about halfway through the year, and maybe there were some lingering effects from the shoulder injury, that he just took off," Central Scouting's Pat Cullen said. "He's a smart player, no question about it, but he just became that impact guy where every game he was impacting the score sheet.

"But one of the things you didn't see was he was impacting the game defensively, because he can really skate, he's really smart, he's got a good compete level. But something seemed to click, and his game went to another level. Chicago, for a good portion of the year, no one thought they'd make the playoffs, and he just seemed like he took it upon himself to raise his level of play and you could see the level of other players on his team was raised just by what they were seeing their teammate do."

Garman still marvels at how Hage pushed through the past two seasons.

"A lot of people would not have been able to handle it," he said. "And you would be like, 'Oh, of course they couldn't handle it.' That was two really, really difficult blows back to back, and you don't blame them for whatever the result is. Instead, Michael seemed to just get better and better over time. I could not be more impressed with how he handled that, and what he went through."

Next for Hage will be the 2024 NHL Draft, where he'll have family and friends with him at Sphere in Las Vegas, and thinking of someone special who won't be.

"I think that this is what he wanted me to do and what he believed I could do," Hage said. "So I just tried to go out every night this year and I thought and did a good job of just making him proud with everything I do, as if he's watching."

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